In the United States, police need a search warrant to check the contents of your cellphone, but the law is not so clear north of the border as a 38-year-old Canadian man recently found out.
Alain Philippon of Quebec refused to give his cellphone password to the Canada Border Services Agency last Monday at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport.
Officials were conducting a customs search of Philippon, after he flew in from the Dominican Republic.
Philippon refused to give up his password and was charged with hindering or preventing border officers from doing their jobs.
The penalty for violating the law is a fine, ranging from $1,000 to $25,000, and a possible one-year jail sentence, a Canada Border Services Agency spokeswoman told CNET.
Philippon, who was released on bail, intends to fight the charge in court. His first appearance will be on May 12.
Rob Currie, director of the Law and Technology Institute at the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University, told CBC News: "Under the Customs Act, customs officers are allowed to inspect things that you have, that you're bringing into the country. The term used in the act is 'goods,' but that certainly extends to your cellphone, to your tablet, to your computer, pretty much anything you have."
"This is a question that has not been litigated in Canada, whether they can actually demand you to hand over your password to allow them to unlock the device," Currie added. "[It's] one thing for them to inspect it, another thing for them to compel you to help them."